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CUBA: Still a Target for Ill-Informed Media Opinion & Hysteria !?!

2017-02-21:  The day after the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, Revolutionary Leader and Former President of Cuba … Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, issued a News Release on 26 November 2016, which can be viewed here … http://www.president.ie/en/media-library/news-releases/P24

Media reaction, in Ireland, to this News Release was hysterical and grossly ill-informed !

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery ;  it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.  A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Mao Zedong

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So here are some images from the ‘real’ Cuba … or ‘real’ images from Cuba … whichever you prefer …

Fidel Castro was one of the Principal Leaders of the Cuban Revolution.  Raul Castro, President of Cuba (and Fidel’s brother), is now the only surviving member of that Group.  Click to enlarge.  [M-26-7 = Movimiento 26 de Julio. See below.]

In 1961, the United States of America attempted a Counter-Revolutionary Invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.  This attempt was an embarrassing failure for the USA … but a resolute and consolidating success for Cuba and the Revolution.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit at Playa Giron.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Playa Giron … one of the 1961 Invasion landing areas in the Bay of Pigs.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Every group of houses … every street in a community … has its own Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) … an important cohesive feature in a Socially Resilient Society.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Hatuey, Indigenous ‘Taino’ Chief … Cuba’s First National Hero … burned at the stake in 1512 by Spanish soldiers … at Yara, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Monument dedicated to Perucho Figueredo, who wrote the Cuban National Anthem: ‘La Bayamesa’ … in Bayamo, Cuba.  The Anthem was first played in a local church, 1868.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of General Antonio Maceo … Plaza de la Revolución … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

Mausoleum of José Martí, Santa Ifigenia Cemetery … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

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Moncada Army Barracks (formerly) … now a school and museum … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  On 26 July 1953, an attempted attack on the Barracks, led by Fidel Castro, failed.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

The Sierra Maestra Mountains … in Eastern Cuba … birthplace of the second, successful phase of the Cuban Revolution … which began with the landing of the Granma in December 1956.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Early photograph of Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna Lynch, in Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit in Yara.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

1958 Armoured Train Ambush Site & Monument … in Santa Clara, Cuba.  The successful ambush, on 29 December, was led by Che Guevara.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

Bosque de los Héroes … Santiago de Cuba, Cuba … white marble monument in honour of Che Guevara and the comrades who died with him (1967) in Bolivia.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-08.  Click to enlarge.

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José Martí Statue, Parque Central … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of the Republic, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Pasos Perdidos, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Gran Teatro de La Habana … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

El Floridita Bar & Restaurant … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Main Staircase, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Notice the bullet holes in the marble !  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Espejos, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Paseo del Prado … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Malecón … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Mural de la Prehistoria (1959-62, and restored in 1980), by Cuban painter Leovigildo González, in the Valle de Viňales … Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Tobacco Harvest … in Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of Benny Moré (1919-63) … Cuban singer, bandleader and songwriter … Paseo del Prado, Cienfuegos, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

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International Work Brigade (December 2011 – January 2012) at the Campamento Internacional Julio Antonio Mella … in Caimito, Cuba.  Click to enlarge.

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Master Architect Oscar Niemeyer Dies – 5 December 2012

2012-12-06 …

A Great Man of Brazil … was born on 15 December 1907 and, yesterday, died on 5 December 2012 … Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho.

A Master Architect of the World !

Oscar’s WebSite:  http://www.niemeyer.org.br/

I think … and feel … that there is no better tribute to him than a small presentation of his creative work in Brasilia … from an unusual perspective …

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2004-12-14. Click to enlarge.

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Postscript:  2013-01-01 …

By accident (almost, but not quite !) … while surfing the world wide web … I came upon this interesting 1960 photograph of construction work in Brasilia … taken by the Swiss Photographer, René Burri

Black and white photograph showing construction work on top of one of the Secretariat Towers, in Brasilia's National Congress Building. Photograph taken by the Swiss photographer, René Burri. 1960. Click to enlarge.

Black and white photograph showing construction work on top of one of the Secretariat Towers, in Brasilia’s National Congress Building. Photograph taken by the Swiss photographer, René Burri. 1960. Click to enlarge.

It would be well worth your effort to check out more photographs by René Burri !   Visit the Magnum Photos WebSite here … http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL5350UE

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Health & Safety at a Construction Site in Osaka, Japan

2012-12-04:  How two Health and Safety Issues are handled at this Construction Site in Osaka, Japan … which, I regret to say, will be of small interest within Europe, where construction-related fatalities and injuries are far too high !

1.   Control of vehicular access to, and egress from, the Site.  Note the hosing down of the truck’s tyres before leaving, and entering back onto the public street.  On this particular day, the volume of site traffic was high.

2.   High visibility identification, and insulated protection of, overhead electric wires/cables.

Even before entering the Site … these are Very Good Indicators with regard to how Health and Safety at Work, generally, is managed …

Japan Industrial Safety & Health Association – Industrial Accidents (2010)

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-10-03. Click to enlarge.

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New Legal & Normative Environment for Accessibility in Europe

2012-11-27:  On Friday last, 23 November 2012, I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference, which was held in Dublin Castle, Ireland.  The Programme was interesting and diverse … but lacked a vital element …

  • Session 1 – Priorities of the Irish EU Presidency ;
  • Session 2 – Economic Governance & Economic Monetary Union ;
  • Session 3 – Innovation & the Digital/Energy Interface ;
  • Session 4 – The European Union in the World.

[ IIEA – Institute of International & European Affairs ] + [ TEPSA – Trans-European Policy Studies Association ]

Colour photograph showing Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore delivering a Keynote Address, from the podium, at the 2012 Dublin IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference. In the Chair - looking very pensive - is Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh, Director General of the IIEA. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore delivering a Keynote Address, from the podium, at the 2012 Dublin IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference. In the Chair – looking very pensive – is Mr. Dáithí O’Ceallaigh, Director General of the IIEA. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Although the serious problem of Youth Unemployment in Europe was discussed (from an economic perspective), and the Ageing Society received a passing mention … there was hardly any consideration of EU Citizenship and the many other Soft Social Issues … with, surprise-surprise, no reference at all to the Weak and Vulnerable Groups of People in all of our countries.

Furthermore … I don’t know whether they were invited to the Dublin EU Presidency Conference … and if they were, whether they couldn’t attend … but I did not notice a significant presence of representatives from Irish Disability Organizations at this important event.

Conference Delegates needed to hear that the European Union is for All of its People … not just its Citizens !   That distinction is critical.

Colour photograph showing Delegates at the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference in Dublin - described by one journalist as "a heavyweight audience of policymakers and 'leading thinkers' " - chatting over morning coffee and tea. Notice the lethal-looking metal handrail extensions in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Delegates at the 2012 IIEA/TEPSA Irish EU Presidency Conference in Dublin – described by one journalist as “a heavyweight audience of policymakers and ‘leading thinkers’ ” – chatting over morning coffee and tea. Notice the lethal-looking metal handrail extensions in the foreground. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-11-23. Click to enlarge.

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Which sets the scene, in an odd way, for the following e-mail message I recently sent through the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) … a network of European Accessibility Experts, co-ordinated from Luxembourg by Mr. Silvio Sagramola …

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To EuCAN Network Members:

Silvio,

With some concern, I have been following the discussion about Access Officers.

Allow me to explain.

Once upon a time … at a meeting of the EuCAN Management Team in Luxembourg … there was an intense discussion about ‘Accessibility & Human Rights’.  Now that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been adopted, entered into force, and been ratified by the European Union and many, though not all, of the EU Member States … I hope that this issue has finally been resolved.

Therefore … the immediate, Pan-European Accessibility Agenda can be found in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the Convention … all within the context of Preamble Paragraph (g).

BUT … is any organization yet working with this Agenda … and, most importantly, implementing it properly ?

AND … let us not forget that Independent Mechanisms to Monitor Implementation are an essential component of the same Agenda (Article 33.2) … at European, national, and sub-national levels, right down to individual public and private organizations !

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Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency‘.

The flawed framework, founded on the term ‘Access’ alone, is now obsolete.  And, therefore, the Access Officer is no more.  Let us all finally agree that the responsible individual, whether he or she, is an Accessibility Officer !

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If the EuCAN Network is to have a useful and constructive future, this is the New Legal & Normative Environment which it must confront, carefully examine … and, in support of which, it should produce design guidance, decision-making computer software tools, etc., etc … for the practical purpose of ‘real’ implementation.

AND … any proposed EuCAN Programme of Action (2013-2015) should also include a review and updating of past publications.

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Some Points To Note:

1.     Although the European Union ratified the U.N. CRPD on 23 December 2010 … European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship) stated at a Dublin Meeting, in answer to my direct question, that some Member States are offering stiff resistance to integration of the Convention into the EU System.  Why isn’t the European Disability Forum on top of this ?   But also … the European Union has not yet either signed, or ratified, the Convention’s Optional Protocol.

2.     At the time of writing … Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway (EEA) … have still not ratified the Convention.  Why not ?   Where is the outcry from disability organizations in those countries ??

In Ireland, unfortunately, national decision-makers would rather commit ritual suicide outside government buildings than acknowledge an individual citizen’s human rights.  And, if Ireland ever does ratify the Convention, proper implementation will be very problematic.

Am I exaggerating ?   Not at all … just look at how Ireland has implemented the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified back in September 1992.

3.     In EU Member States that have ratified the U.N. CRPD … the Convention is not always being implemented properly.

Towards the end of the following Blog Post … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2011/10/public-procurement-design-for-all-its-crunch-time-folks/ … I have discussed the Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of Spain (September 2011 Session of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

4.     Preamble Paragraph (g) of the U.N. CRPD is even more important, now, for this reason … the United Nations has started to develop the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.  It is essential to fully integrate Ability/Disability Issues into this process.  Making a submission to the U.N. could be an interesting task for EuCAN.

5.     The Fire Safety Texts contained in ISO 21542 are essentially just a bare minimum … and they are mostly in the form of recommendations (‘should’), not requirements (‘shall’).  There is a great need to add extra detail to those texts … and to convert them into requirements.  Making a series of submissions to the International Standards Organization (ISO) should be a task for EuCAN.

Regards.

C.J. Walsh, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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EUropean Concept for Accessibility (EuCAN) – Extract from 2001 Mission Statement

The fundamental basis of a European philosophy for accessibility is the recognition, acceptance and fostering – at all levels in society – of the rights of all human beings, including people with activity limitations … in an ensured context of high human health, safety, comfort and environmental protection.  Accessibility for All is an essential attribute of a ‘person-centred’, sustainable built environment.

An Effectively Accessible Europe for All

Now that a Comprehensive Legal and Normative Environment for Accessibility has finally been created in Europe … there is a vital need for EuCAN for serve … and a vital role for EuCAN to play.

However … Concerted Action must be directed at Implementation … Effective Implementation … ‘real’ accessibility which works.

Enough talk – Enough tokenism !!

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Birthplace of Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Salonika, Greece

2012-06-09:  Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city … still commonly referred to as Salonika by local people … is a very nice commercial city and an important city of culture, but not really a tourist city.  One of the highlights of my recent stay there was a visit to the house where Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was born … later to become an outstanding Turkish military commander during the ill-fated British and ANZAC Gallipoli (Turkish: Gelibolu) Campaign of the First World War, and afterwards First President of the modern Turkish State.  The three-storey house is also a small museum, containing exhibits of his personal effects, many photographs, and documents.

Located at 17 Apostolu Pavlou … the Atatürk House is accessed through the Turkish Chancellery, which is around the corner on the main street called ‘Agiou Dimitriou’ …

Colour photograph showing an exterior view of the House and Museum from the Garden at the rear. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an exterior view of the House and Museum from the Garden at the rear. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum ... the Room where Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was actually born. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum … the Room where Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was actually born. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum ... room with Exhibits of his Personal Effects. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum … room with Exhibits of his Personal Effects. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum ... the Family Kitchen. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum … the Family Kitchen. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum ... the Guest Reception Room. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an interior view of the House and Museum … the Guest Reception Room. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a general exterior view of the House and Museum from the street. The three-storey house is located within the grounds of the Turkish Chancellery. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a general exterior view of the House and Museum from the street. The three-storey house is located within the grounds of the Turkish Chancellery. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the exterior view of the Front Door and Large Commemorative Plaque from the street. Access to the house is through the Turkish Chancellery around the corner. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the exterior view of the Front Door and Large Commemorative Plaque from the street. Access to the house is through the Turkish Chancellery around the corner. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2012-04-24. Click to enlarge.

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Unheeded Fire Hazards in New Energy Efficient Buildings !!

2012-03-29:  The relentless pressure, within the European Union (EU), to bring a greater measure of stability to imported energy supplies … to reduce our overall use of energy … to be far more efficient in the ways we consume those lesser amounts of energy … to find cleaner sources of energy to replace oil, gas, and especially coal … to comply with ambitious targets on climate change mitigation … are all pointing in one direction with regard to design and construction.  We are forced to super-insulate new buildings !

Without many people realizing it, however, we change how fire behaves in a highly insulated building … especially when insulation materials are part of the interior finishes, not carefully buried within the construction.  [Even the old Building Bye-Laws in Dublin City permitted a cavity in a masonry wall up to 150mm wide !]   And, as usual, Building and Fire Regulations are slow to catch up with these important architectural developments.

Let me show you an example of a basement car park in a new hospital (which shall remain nameless !) … where a serious ‘fire’ problem has been festering since it was opened, and occupied, a few years ago.

This hospital could be anywhere in Europe …

Colour photograph showing the basement car park in a hospital. Click this photograph, and the photographs below, to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the basement car park in a hospital. Click this photograph, and the photographs below, to enlarge.

The ceiling height in this car park is low … approximately 2 metres above floor level.  The ceiling comprises a 6mm off-white calcium silicate board of limited combustibility (for the techies out there – this board is not ‘incombustible’, and it is not ‘non-combustible’) … above which is a 40mm rigid phenolic thermal insulation board … all fixed to the underside of a concrete floor slab.

This phenolic insulation board is very efficient … and during the normal course of events, its job is to stop the loss of heat from the hospital wards and other areas above.  A cold concrete floor is also very uncomfortable for people, i.e. hospital staff, having to walk around on it for long periods.

Because the insulation board is efficient, and it is fixed to the underside of the floor slab … in a fire situation, let’s say that a fire starts in a car … the heat from that fire will be reflected by the insulation board back downwards.  The result:  the fire will be encouraged to spread much more quickly to neighbouring vehicles.  And so, in a very short time, we will have a much larger fire … and a much more intense fire … which will be far more difficult to control and extinguish, when the fire services eventually arrive on the scene.

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There are a Number of Twists in This Story …

     1.  For all sorts of normal reasons, there are service penetration openings in the car park ceiling shown above (some small and some large), especially in a hospital which is highly serviced … the overall approach to fire and smoke sealing in this new building is not the best … and workmanship is poor …

… which, together, all mean that it will be easy for fire and smoke to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas … in the event of a fire emergency.

In a hospital, not everybody is alert and mobile.  It will be difficult to evacuate some people … and it will be nearly impossible, because of their health condition, to evacuate others.  In order for a fire engineering strategy of horizontal evacuation to a ‘safer’ part of the same building to be successfully put into effect during an emergency … it is imperativethat the level of passive protection from fire and smoke provided is high … much higher, here, than in the case of an average office building, for example.  AND … it is criticalthat this high level of protection from fire and smoke is reliable.

In this new hospital building … the photographic evidence clearly shows that both of these criteria have not been met.

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     2.  Another twist in the story concerns the rigid phenolic thermal insulation board used in the car park ceiling … which, as the evidence also shows, is exposed to direct view in many places …

In a short, brochure-type document produced by the European Phenolic Foam Association (EPFA): ‘Phenolic Foam Insulation – The Ultimate Insulation System for the Construction & Building Services Industry’, the following is stated with regard to the fire performance of this material …

‘ Toxic gas emission from phenolic foam is generally limited to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide with very low levels of other gases.’

However, in a report produced by the National Research Council of Canada: ‘Toxicity and Smoke Aspects of Foamed Plastic Insulation – An Annotated Bibliography’ … the following abstracts can be found …

  • Toxicity of Off-Gases from Phenolic Rigid Foam

‘ A reference sample of phenolic rigid foam was evaluated for toxicity of off-gases, using various test conditions in the NASA-USF-PSC toxicity screening test method.  Test results show that the response of this material to the various test conditions is similar to that exhibited by the majority of other materials previously evaluated by this method.  That is, animal response times generally decreased with increasing fixed temperature, and with increasing airflow rate under rising temperature conditions.  The authors suggest that formaldehyde is one of the toxicants present although the amount of CO produced at 600°C or higher was enough to be lethal by itself.

  • Toxicity of Off-Gases from Thermal Insulation

‘ Toxicity test data on the off-gases from various thermal insulation materials are presented in this paper.  Under rising temperature without forced airflow test conditions, phenolic foams exhibited the shortest times to death, while polyisocyanurate, polyurethane and polystyrene foams exhibited the longest times to death.  The introduction of airflow significantly reduced time to death, apparently due to a higher degree of oxidation and more rapid delivery of toxicants.  The authors conclude that under the particular test conditions, plastic thermal insulations appear to exhibit less toxicity than cellulosic board and cellulose insulation, with polyimide and phenolic foams being the exceptions.

  • Relative Flammability and Toxicity of Thermal Insulation

‘ Relative flammability and relative toxicity data are presented for 30 samples of thermal insulation materials.  There appears to be no inherent, necessary compromise between flammability and toxicity in the selection of materials.  Cellulosic and plastics insulations appear to represent significantly different combinations of flammability and toxicity hazards, and require different approaches when planning and designing applications.  Polyurethane foam appeared to be significantly less toxic and slightly less flammable than wood and other cellulosic materials.  Polyisocyanurate foam seemed to be more toxic than polyurethane foam but still less toxic than the cellulosic materials.  Polystyrene foam exhibited the longest time to death while phenolic foam showed the second shortest time to death among the group of rigid foams evaluated.

  • Carbon Monoxide Production from Overheated Thermal Insulation Materials

‘ Carbon monoxide yields were obtained for selected thermal insulation materials.  The data are presented and discussed in this paper.  Among the rigid foamed plastics, phenolic gave the highest yield of CO under a rising temperature and no airflow test conditions.  Polyurethane foams based on propoxylated aromatic amino polyol appeared to produce less CO than polyurethane foams based on propoxylated trimethylolpropane polyol.  Under fixed temperatures of 800°C without airflow test conditions, similar results were obtained for the rigid foamed plastics.’

  • Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic and Isocyanurate Rigid Foams

‘ Special reference samples of phenolic and isocyanurate rigid foams were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using 6 different test conditions of the USF toxicity screening test methods.  Under rising temperature conditions, phenolic foam appeared to be consistently more toxic than the isocyanurate foam.  CO level appears to be the factor, which is twice as high from the phenolic foam.  The temperatures corresponding to the times to death indicate that the toxicants were evolved below 500°C for phenolic and below 640°C for isocyanurate.  These are in agreement with that of the University of Pittsburgh (UP) data.  At a fixed temperature of 800°C, there appeared to be no difference in toxicity between the phenolic and isocyanurate foams, although the former tended to produce more carbon monoxide.’

  • Toxicity of Pyrolysis Gases from Phenolic, Isocyanurate and Polystyrene Rigid Foam Insulation

‘ Samples of phenolic, isocyanurate, and polystyrene rigid foam insulation were evaluated for toxicity of pyrolysis gases, using four different test conditions of the toxicity screening test method developed at the University of San Francisco.  The test conditions were 200 to 800°C rising temperature and 800°C fixed temperature, each without forced airflow and with 1 L/min airflow.  On the average over these four particular test conditions, phenolic foam appeared to exhibit the greatest toxicity and polystyrene foam appeared to exhibit the least toxicity.

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As already discussed in an  earlier post , dated 2011-01-13 … we know that Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless and toxic gas … and because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill before you are aware it is there.

So … it will be easy for Fire, Visible Smoke and Carbon Monoxide to spread upwards into the hospital wards and other areas of this building … in the event of a fire emergency.

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This Hospital’s ‘Fire’ Problem & Its Solution

The ‘fire’ problem in this hospital has been allowed to fester for a number of years because the issues shown in the photographs above are either inadequately addressed … or not addressed at all … in Ireland’s Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B … a document which is intended merely to present some supporting guidance for operating Part B: ‘Fire Safety’, in the 2nd Schedule of the Building Regulations.

Unfortunately, all parties directly responsible for this hospital debacle are under the very mistaken impression that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation.  This is a major error !   Furthermore … TGD B is fundamentally flawed … and it is particularly inadequate when the building type is a health facility.

To Correct This ‘Fire’ Problem … a Fire Suppression System should immediately be installed in the basement car park.  At the same time, if not before … ALL Service Penetration Openings in the concrete floor slab should be properly sealed so that, during a fire incident, the passage of fire and smoke and CO into building spaces above the slab will be prevented.  And … the quality of workmanship, on site, must be high !

An appropriate number of Carbon Monoxide Detectors should be installed in the hospital wards and other areas above the concrete floor slab.

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The ‘Institutional’ Problem

The procedure of having to submit so-called Compliance Reports with applications for Fire Safety Certificates, in Ireland, only confirms … and reinforces … the very mistaken impression in everybody’s minds that the guidance in Technical Guidance Document B is prescriptive regulation.

In the case of a different hospital … let me give you an example of a text contained in one such Compliance Report … submitted to an Irish Local Authority, sometime during 2004 …

Single Steps at Final Exit Doors

It is noted that Clause 1.4.3.4 of TGD-B is ambiguous vis-à-vis steps located on the line of final exit doors, i.e. as opposed to a condition where there is a step beyond the line of a door.  Accordingly, it is reasonable and appropriate to make reference to the current England and Wales Approved Document B (2000 Edition) for guidance on this issue in so far as Technical Guidance Document B is based on an early draft of the Approved Document.  It is noted that the UK AD-B in Clauses 6.15 and 6.21 specifically allow single steps at final exits provided they are located on the line of the doorway in question.  Furthermore, the recently issued Northern Ireland Technical Bulletin E (1994) also allows such steps, subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm.  On the basis of the foregoing, single steps are considered acceptable at the final exit doors subject to the riser not exceeding 180mm and the step being located on the line of the door.

This is mindless, incompetent nonsense … and it was accepted by the Local Authority.

How often, anymore, does anybody encounter a step … 180mm high, or of any height … at the front entrance to a new building ?   Building designers have finally understood the message that new buildings must be accessible-for-all … and a single step, in any situation, is a trip or a fall accident waiting to happen.  Now imagine the situation where people are attempting to evacuate an average office building, for example, during a fire emergency … and they encounter a single step at the final fire exit !?!   Now really stretch your imagination … and imagine where people are trying to evacuate a hospital !!??!!

FUBAR !!

The System is not only entirely dysfunctional … it is corrupt !

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END

 

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Post-9/11 & Post-Mumbai Fire Engineering – What Future ?

Previous Posts in This Series …

2011-10-25:  NIST’s Recommendations on the 9-11 WTC Building Collapses … GROUP 1. Increased Structural Integrity – Recommendations 1, 2 & 3 (out of 30)

2011-11-18:  NIST WTC Recommendations 4-7 > Structural Fire EnduranceGROUP 2.  Enhanced Fire Endurance of Structures – Recommendations 4, 5, 6 & 7

2011-11-24:  NIST WTC Recommendations 8-11 > New Design of StructuresGROUP 3.  New Methods for Fire Resisting Design of Structures – Recommendations 8, 9, 10 & 11

2011-11-25:  NIST WTC Recommendations 12-15 > Improved Active ProtectionGROUP 4.  Improved Active Fire Protection – Recommendations 12, 13, 14 & 15

2011-11-30:  NIST Recommendations 16-20 > Improved People EvacuationGROUP 5.  Improved Building Evacuation – Recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20

2011-12-04:  NIST WTC Recommendations 21-24 > Improved FirefightingGROUP 6.  Improved Emergency Response – Recommendations 21, 22, 23 & 24

2011-12-07:  NIST WTC Recommendations 25-28 > Improved PracticesGROUP 7.  Improved Procedures and Practices – Recommendations 25, 26, 27 & 28

2011-12-08:  NIST WTC Recommendations 29-30 > Improved Fire EducationGROUP 8.  Education and Training – Recommendations 29 & 30 (out of 30)

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Colour image showing 'The Cloud' Residential Tower Project, in Seoul (South Korea) ... which will be completed in 2015. Design by MVRDV Architects, The Netherlands. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing 'The Cloud' Residential Tower Project, in Seoul (South Korea) ... which will be completed in 2015. Design by MVRDV Architects, The Netherlands. Click to enlarge.

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2011-12-15:  You know what is coming soon … so Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to One and All !!

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  1.     There were 2 Important Reasons for undertaking this Series of Posts …

(a)       The General Public, and particularly Client Organizations, should be facilitated in directly accessing the core content of the 2005 NIST WTC Recommendations.  Up to now, many people have found this to be a daunting task.  More importantly, I also wanted to clearly show that implementation of the Recommendations is still proceeding far too slowly … and that today, many significant aspects of these Recommendations remain unimplemented.  Furthermore, in the case of some recent key national standards, e.g. British Standard BS 9999, which was published in 2008 … the NIST Recommendations were entirely ignored.

As a golden rule … National Building Codes/Regulations and National Standards … cannot, should not, and must not … be applied without informed thought and many questions, on the part of a building designer !

(b)       With the benefit of hindsight, and our practical experience in FireOx International … I also wanted to add a necessary 2011 Technical Commentary to the NIST Recommendations … highlighting some of the radical implications, and some of the limitations, of these Recommendations … in the hope of initiating a much-needed and long overdue international discussion on the subject.

Colour photograph showing the Taipei 101 Tower, in Taiwan ... which was completed in 2004. Designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Taipei 101 Tower, in Taiwan ... which was completed in 2004. Designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan. Click to enlarge.

” Architecture is the language of a culture.”

” A living building is the information space where life can be found.  Life exists within the space.  The information of space is then the information of life.  Space is the body of the building.  The building is therefore the space, the information, and the life.”

C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan

[ This is a local dialect of familiar Architectural Language.  However, the new multi-aspect language of Sustainable Design is fast evolving.  In order to perform as an effective and creative member of a Trans-Disciplinary Design & Construction Team … can Fire Engineers quickly learn to communicate on these wavelengths ??   Evidence to date suggests not ! ]

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  2.     ‘Climate Change’ & ‘Energy Stability’ – Relentless Driving Forces for Sustainable Design !

Not only is Sustainable Fire Engineering inevitable … it must be !   And not at some distant point in the future … but now … yesterday !!   There is such a build-up of pressure on Spatial Planners and Building Designers to respond quickly, creatively, intuitively and appropriately to the relentless driving forces of Climate Change (including climate change mitigation, adaptation, and severe weather resilience) and Energy Stability (including energy efficiency and conservation) … that there is no other option for the International Fire Science and Engineering Community but to adapt.  Adapt and evolve … or become irrelevant !!

And one more interesting thought to digest … ‘Green’ is not the answer.  ‘Green’ looks at only one aspect of Sustainable Human & Social Development … the Environment.  This is a blinkered, short-sighted, simplistic and ill-conceived approach to realizing the complex goal of a Safe and Sustainable Built Environment.  ‘Green’ is ‘Sustainability’ for innocent children !!

Colour image showing the Shanghai Tower Project, in China ... which will be completed in 2014. Design by Gensler Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Shanghai Tower Project, in China ... which will be completed in 2014. Design by Gensler Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  (a)      Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD) – 2012’s Environmental Outlook to 2050

Extract from Pre-Release Climate Change Chapter, November 2011 …

Climate change presents a global systemic risk to society.  It threatens the basic elements of life for all people: access to water, food production, health, use of land, and physical and natural capital.  Inadequate attention to climate change could have significant social consequences for human wellbeing, hamper economic growth and heighten the risk of abrupt and large-scale changes to our climatic and ecological systems.  The significant economic damage could equate to a permanent loss in average per capita world consumption of more than 14% (Stern, 2006).  Some poor countries would be likely to suffer particularly severely.  This chapter demonstrates how avoiding these economic, social and environmental costs will require effective policies to shift economies onto low-carbon and climate-resilient growth paths.’

  (b)      U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.7, November 2011

Executive Summary …

The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2010, with CO2 at 389.0 parts per million (ppm), CH4 at 1808 parts per billion (ppb) and N2O at 323.2 ppb.  These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 39%, 158% and 20%, respectively.  Atmospheric increases of CO2 and N2O from 2009 to 2010 are consistent with recent years, but they are higher than both those observed from 2008 to 2009 and those averaged over the past 10 years.  Atmospheric CH4 continues to increase, consistent with the past three years.  The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2010 radiative forcing by long-lived Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) increased by 29%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.  Radiative forcing of N2O exceeded that of CFC-12, making N2O the third most important long-lived Greenhouse Gas.

  (c)      International Energy Agency (IEA) – World Energy Outlook, November 2011

Extract from Executive Summary …

There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is underway.  Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high.  Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400 billion.  The number of people without access to electricity remained unacceptably high at 1.3 Billion, around 20% of the world’s population.  Despite the priority in many countries to increase energy efficiency, global energy intensity worsened for the second straight year.  Against this unpromising background, events such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have cast doubts on the reliability of energy supply, while concerns about sovereign financial integrity have shifted the focus of government attention away from energy policy and limited their means of policy intervention, boding ill for agreed global climate change objectives.’

Colour image showing the One World Trade Center Project, in New York City (USA) ... which will be completed in 2013. Design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Architects/Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the One World Trade Center Project, in New York City (USA) ... which will be completed in 2013. Design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Architects/Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

[ Not just in the case of Tall, Super-Tall and Mega-Tall Buildings … but the many, many Other Building Types in the Built Environment … are Building Designers implementing the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … without waiting for Building and Fire Codes/Regulations and Standards to be properly revised and updated ??   Evidence to date suggests not ! ]

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  3.     Separate Dilemmas for Client Organizations and Building Designers …

As discussed earlier in this Series … the Fire Safety Objectives of Building and Fire Codes/Regulations are limited to:

  • The protection of building users/occupants ;   and
  • The protection of property … BUT only insofar as that is relevant to the protection of the users/occupants ;

… because the function of Building and Fire Codes is to protect Society.  Well, that is supposed to be true !   Unfortunately, not all Codes/Regulations are adequate or up-to-date … as we have been observing here in these posts.

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Just taking the Taipei 101 Tower as an example, I have very recently sent out three genuine, bona fide e-mail messages from our practice …

2011-12-08

Toshiba Elevator & Building Systems Corporation (TELC), Japan.

To Whom It May Concern …

Knowing that your organization was involved in the Taipei 101 Project … we have been examining your WebSite very carefully.  However, some important information was missing from there.

For our International Work … we would like to receive technical information on the Use of Elevators for Fire Evacuation in Buildings … which we understand is actually happening in the Taipei Tower, since it was completed in 2004.

The Universal Design approach must also be integrated into any New Elevators.

Can you help us ?

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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2011-12-12

Mr. Thomas Z. Scarangello P.E. – Chairman & CEO, Thornton Tomasetti Structural Engineers, New York.

Dear Thomas,

Knowing that your organization was involved in the structural design of the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and in the on-going design of many other iconic tall, super-tall and mega-tall buildings around the world … we have been examining your Company Brochures and WebSite very carefully.  However, some essential information is missing.

As you are certainly aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly.  Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.

For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current structural fire engineering designs.

Many thanks for your kind attention.  In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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2011-12-14

Mr. C.Y. Lee & Mr. C.P. Wang, Principal Architects – C.Y. Lee & Partners Architects/Planners, Taiwan.

Dear Sirs,

Knowing that your architectural practice designed the Taipei 101 Tower, which was completed in 2004 … and, later, was also involved in the design of other tall and super-tall buildings in Taiwan and China … we have been examining your Company WebSite very carefully.  However, some essential information is missing.

As you are probably aware … implementation of the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) Recommendations on the Collapse of WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7, in New York City, on 11 September 2001 … is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, i.e. very slowly.  Today, many significant aspects of NIST’s Recommendations remain unimplemented.

For our International Work … we would like to understand how you have responded directly to the NIST Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current architectural designs.

Many thanks for your kind attention.  In anticipation of your prompt and detailed response …

C.J. Walsh

[2012-01-10 … No reply yet !]

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So … how many Clients, or Client Organizations, are aware that to properly protect their interests … even, a significant part of their interests … it is vitally necessary that Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives be developed which will have a much wider scope ?   The answer is … not many !

How many Architects, Structural Engineers, and Fire Engineers fully explain this to their Clients or Client Organizations ?

And how many Clients/Client Organizations either know that they should ask, or have the balls to ask … their Architect, Structural Engineer and Fire Engineer for this explanation … and furthermore, in the case of any High-Rise Building, Iconic Building, or Building having an Important Function or an Innovative Design … ask the same individuals for some solid reassurance that they have responded directly to the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations … and incorporated the necessary additional modifications into your current designs … whatever current Building and Fire Codes/Regulations do or do not say ??   A big dilemma !

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A common and very risky dilemma for Building Designers, however, arises in the situation where the Project Developer, i.e. the Client/Client Organization … is the same as the Construction Organization.  The Project Design & Construction Team – as a whole – now has very little power or authority if a conflict arises over technical aspects of the design … or over construction costs.  An even bigger dilemma !!

Colour image showing the Kingdom Tower Project, in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) ... which will be completed in 2018. Design by Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Kingdom Tower Project, in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) ... which will be completed in 2018. Design by Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  4.     The Next Series of Posts – 2008 NIST WTC Recommendations

In the new year of 2012 … I will examine the later NIST Recommendations which were a response to the Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse of World Trade Center Building No.7.

Colour image showing the Signature Tower Project, in Jakarta (Indonesia) ... which will be completed in 2016. Design by Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Signature Tower Project, in Jakarta (Indonesia) ... which will be completed in 2016. Design by Smallwood Reynolds Stewart Stewart Architects & Planners, USA. Click to enlarge.

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  5.     Please … Your Comments, Views & Opinions ?!?

The future of  Conventional Fire Engineering ended on the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001, in New York City … an engineering discipline constrained by a long heritage deeply embedded in, and manacled to, an outdated and inflexible prescriptive approach to Codes/Regulations and Standards … an approach which is irrational, ignores the ‘real’ needs of the ‘real’ people who use and/or occupy ‘real’ buildings … and, quite frankly, no longer makes any scientific sense !!

On the other hand … having confronted the harsh realities of 9/11 and the Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks, and digested the 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC RecommendationsSustainable Fire Engineering … having a robust empirical basis, being ‘person-centred’, and positively promoting creativity … offers the International Fire Science and Engineering Community a confident journey forward into the future … on many diverse routes !

This IS the only appropriate response to the exciting architectural innovations and fire safety challenges of today’s Built Environment.

BUT … what do you think ?

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END

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Accessible Toilet Room in a Japanese Public Place – Kanazawa

2011-11-28:  Further to my post, dated 20 October 2010

A valuable and essential facility in the grounds of  Kanazawa Castle, Japan … entered directly from the exterior … is this Accessible Toilet Room / WC / Bathroom / Hygiene Room / Rest Room / Sanitary Room (whichever term you are familiar with) provided for public use.  There is no attendant permanently present, and no camera surveillance of the external entrance area.  However, it is regularly cleaned and properly maintained during the Castle’s opening hours.

Colour photograph showing Kanazawa Castle and its grounds, in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing Kanazawa Castle and its grounds, in Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

The following photographs show a far more ‘developed’, ‘civilized’ and ‘person-centred’ approach to the design and fit-out of these public facilities (quite common in Japan) … than here in Europe.

Real Accessibility-for-All in action … with no messing around …

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Detailed view of toilet controls and accessories. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing a Public Toilet Room in the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, Japan ... which is Accessible-for-All. Detailed view of toilet controls and accessories. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-27. Click to enlarge.

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Building Design Must Improve Firefighter Safety in Fire Incidents !

2011-07-05 … 
It has been a harsh experience to leave the last post undisturbed for a few weeks !   It was necessary … and I feel better as a result.
 

Back to the present … and in any jurisdiction, news of  Firefighter Fatalities and/or Injuries is very distressing.  It has been remarkable to note, however, how some countries, e.g. Japan, are expending significant time and resources on developing innovative ways to improve firefighter safety in buildings … while most countries are not.  Over many years, I have formed the clear impression that, generally, firefighters are regarded in much the same way as soldiers, i.e. they are a disposable asset … ‘Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die’ … etc., etc.  This situation is entirely unacceptable, and in need of urgent resolution !

On 6th & 7th July … in Cardiff, Wales … I have been invited by the International President of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), Mr. HG Tay, to make a presentation on ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering’ at the 2011 IFE International Fire Conference and Annual General Meeting.  I am greatly honoured by this invitation.

During the course of that presentation, I will be referring to Firefighter Safety … but much more needs to be said, beforehand, in relation to the untapped contribution of building design to greater levels of firefighter safety …

INTRODUCTION

It may be obvious for some (but, believe me, not for all !) that with regard to fighting fires in buildings … Firefighters have 2 Basic Functions :

  • to rescue people who are trapped in a Fire Building (i.e. a building which is on fire) … or people who, for some reason, cannot independently evacuate the building (e.g. people with activity limitations) ;   and
  • to fight those fires, and ensure that they are properly extinguished.

Note:  Extinction of a fire is confirmed only after a thorough visual inspection by a competent person.

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DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION

In a previous post, dated 13 December 2010 I said that it was no longer ethically acceptable to ignore the issue of Firefighter Safety in the design and construction of buildings … because design can make a major contribution to their safety.

Unfortunately, Firefighter Safety must continue to remain an ethical issue because Building Regulations in most countries rarely, if ever, refer to this important aspect of design and construction.  Safety at Work Legislation has a related, but different, intent.

Regrettably, most of the building design professions either have no Code of Ethics … or there is a Code which is ‘lite-lite-lite’, i.e. very weak on ethics … or, worse still, they have a Code … but it is called a Code of Professional Conduct, the principal intent of which is to preserve and protect the profession and its vested interests.

At European Level …

Essential Requirements 1 & 2 (of 6 … for the time being) … in Annex I of European Union (EU) Council Directive 89/106/EEC, of 21 December 1988, on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to Construction Products … state the following …

1. Mechanical Resistance & Stability

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that the loadings that are liable to act on it during its construction and use will not lead to any of the following:

(a) collapse of the whole or part of the works ;

(b) major deformations to an inadmissible degree ;

(c) damage to other parts of the works or to fittings or installed equipment as a result of major deformation of the load-bearing construction ;

(d) damage by an event to an extent disproportionate to the original cause.

2. Safety in Case of Fire

The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire:

– the load-bearing capacity of the construction can be assumed for a specific period of time ;

– the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the works are limited ;

– the spread of the fire to neighbouring construction works is limited ;

– occupants can leave the works or be rescued by other means ;

– the safety of rescue teams is taken into consideration.

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Sweden … has incorporated all 6 Essential Requirements of EU Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC into its National Building Regulations … but has omitted the reference to the ‘safety of rescue teams’, i.e. Firefighter Safety.  Why is that ?

Ireland, along with England & Wales, has not incorporated the EU CPD Essential Requirements into its National Building Regulations.  There is no requirement, in Part B of the Building Regulations of either of these two separate jurisdictions, to consider Firefighter Safety in the design and construction of buildings.

In these three specific cases, taken as a simple example, this is a serious legal flaw … especially since the European Template, above, has existed since the late 1980’s !

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Let me illustrate how Building Design & Construction can make a major contribution to improved levels of Firefighter Safety …

     A.  Accessible Internal Staircases Having Sufficient Unobstructed Width

From a building user’s point of view … the success of a building depends, to a large extent, on the ‘quality’ of its circulation spaces.  During the design process, however, an architect is typically concerned with the relationship between different functions and spaces … while, at the same time, he/she is shaping and moulding the internal and external forms of the building.

The full range of tasks and activities in these circulation spaces is rarely, if ever, considered by the building designer.  The subject is not covered in Architectural Schools … and in later professional life, a reluctance to carry out Building Post-Occupation Evaluations (POE’s) reinforces this low level of awareness.

Some Tasks & Activities in Building Circulation Spaces …

  • Access to the building’s spaces and use of its services and facilities ;
  • Egress from the building during normal, everyday circumstances ;
  • Independent Evacuation, in the event of an emergency ;
  • Assisted Evacuation by others, or Rescue by Firefighters, for those building users who cannot independently evacuate the building, e.g. people with activity limitations ;
  • Firefighter Access & Reconnaissance, in the event of an emergency ;
  • Firefighter Attack, as they approach the proximity of the fire scene ;
  • Firefighter Removal from the building, by colleagues, in the event of injury, impairment, or a fire event induced health condition ;
  • Firefighter Withdrawal at the successful conclusion of firefighting operations.

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Colour photograph showing an injured, or impaired, firefighter being assisted by two colleagues in an upward staircase removal exercise. For reasons outlined in a previous post (2010-12-13) ... all three firefighters must continue to wear full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) ... and use Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an injured, or impaired, firefighter being assisted by two colleagues in an upward staircase removal exercise. For reasons outlined in a previous post (2010-12-13) ... all three firefighters must continue to wear full Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) ... and use Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Click to enlarge.

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The photograph above was extracted from this  2010 Poster Presentation

Daniel DiRenzo, Cherry Hill Fire Department, New Jersey, USA

Building Fires – Personal Harness Use – Firefighter Removals

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.73 Mb)

No matter what the jurisdiction … no matter what Building Regulations do or do not require … it is clear that, during a ‘real’ fire emergency, patterns of circulation are not simple … and they cannot easily be segregated into categories with simple titles.  They are complex … and, quite often, they overlap.

In the case of the firefighter removal on a staircase (shown above) … there is a necessity to consider another type of ‘Contraflow’ … where the injured, or impaired, firefighter with two of his/her colleagues rendering assistance are together moving away from the scene of the fire … while other firefighters are moving in the opposite direction, towards the fire.

In all but the most simple and smallest building types, this is what a Fire Evacuation Staircase should look like below … having a clear unobstructed staircase width, between handrails, of 1500 mm … with a stair going/tread of 300 mm, and a stair riser of 150 mm.  Proper attention by the designer to Accessibility Design Criteria will also make the staircase far, far easier … and safer … for Firefighter Movement …

Colour drawing taken from International Standard ISO FDIS 21542, and associated inset photographs ... showing a Fire Evacuation Staircase suitable for All Building Types, which is designed for Firefighter Safety. The staircase is also designed to accommodate Building User Evacuation/Firefighter Contraflow, illustrated with an inset colour photograph ... the Rescue/Assisted Evacuation of People with Activity Limitations, also illustrated with an inset colour photograph ... and the Use of a Stretcher. The staircase design is based on the work of CJ Walsh. Click to enlarge.

Colour drawing taken from International Standard ISO FDIS 21542, and associated inset photographs ... showing a Fire Evacuation Staircase suitable for All Building Types, which is designed for Firefighter Safety. The staircase is also designed to accommodate Building User Evacuation/Firefighter Contraflow, illustrated with an inset colour photograph ... the Rescue/Assisted Evacuation of People with Activity Limitations, also illustrated with an inset colour photograph ... and the Use of a Stretcher. The staircase design is based on the work of CJ Walsh. Click to enlarge.

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     B.  Accessible Façade Walkways in High-Rise Buildings

With today’s powerful drivers of greater energy conservation and efficiency in buildings, adaptation to climate change, and a paradigm shift in thinking on the reduction of adverse environmental impact by buildings … External Façade Design is rapidly evolving … becoming far more complex and, in many cases, comprising multiple ‘skins’.

Just check out this architectural feature, below, in an Osaka (Japan) High-Rise Hotel … which not only serves as an accessible route for evacuation and/or rescue in the event of a fire incident … but also permits much easier access for maintenance and window cleaning.

This architectural feature should be mandatory in the case of high-rise buildings with a single, central core …

Colour photograph showing the High-Rise Swissôtel Nankai in Osaka, Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the High-Rise Swissôtel Nankai in Osaka, Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-20. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the External Walkway on the Building Façade of the High-Rise Swissôtel Nankai in Osaka, Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-19. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the External Walkway on the Building Façade of the High-Rise Swissôtel Nankai in Osaka, Japan. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-19. Click to enlarge.

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Colour photograph showing the Hotel Room Evacuation Panel to the External Façade Walkway, which can also facilitate rescue by firefighters during a fire incident. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-19. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the Hotel Room Evacuation Panel to the External Façade Walkway, which can also facilitate rescue by firefighters during a fire incident. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2010-04-19. Click to enlarge.

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Building Design can make a substantial contribution to greater Firefighter Safety !!

BUT … who is raising the awareness of building designers about this issue ???

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“April in Paris !” – Recent Meeting of CIB W14: Fire Safety

2011-04-29:  A Meeting of  CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’  took place at the Headquarters of Groupe AFNOR … Association Française de NORmalisation … which is located just outside the centre of Paris, France … on Monday, 11 April 2011.

These meetings are typically, though not always, co-ordinated with a long series of  ISO Technical Committee 92: ‘Fire Safety’ Meetings at the same venue.  Both technical bodies have a very good working relationship, and there is a strong interchange of membership between the two.  The recent revision to the description and scope of CIB W14 will be of enormous benefit to all.

Colour photograph showing the CIB W14: 'Fire Safety' Meeting in Paris, on 11 April 2011, at the Groupe AFNOR Headquarters. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-11. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the CIB W14: 'Fire Safety' Meeting in Paris, on 11 April 2011, at the Groupe AFNOR Headquarters. Photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-11. Click to enlarge.

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Some Matters of Interest at the CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Meeting – Presentations & Discussions about Two of the Current Pre-Normative Innovation & Research Projects …

1.  CIB W14 Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse’

See the Dedicated Page on this Technical Web Log (Tech-BLOG) Sitehttp://www.cjwalsh.ie/progressive-collapse-fire/ … for the latest update on the Research Project … which has proposed the following, as a Rational Route Forward

     A.  Mainstream the Language, Practices, Procedures and Design Methodologies of Fire Science & Engineering … so that other design disciplines can appreciate that Ethical Fire Science & Engineering also has a sound, modern, rational and empirical basis.   [Task for CIB W14]

     B.  Raise awareness about the primacy, and encourage the wide acceptance, of Fire Serviceability Limit States in Structural Fire Engineering … and the universal requirement that buildings must resist Fire-Induced Progressive Collapse and, in addition, also resist Disproportionate Damage.   [Task for CIB W14 Working Group IV]

     C.  Indicate the need for, and foster the development of, innovative Structural Thermal Insulation Fire Protection Systems which are durable, can resist mechanical damage in ambient and fire conditions, and can be properly shown to be ‘fit for their intended life-cycle use’.   [Task for the Fire Industry]

     D.  In steel construction … depending on its location in a building and having designed sufficiently robust connections for fire conditions … show why, where and how Thermal Insulation must now be used to maintain a Lower Temperature in the Steel … in order to ensure that its deformations (+/- deflection, expansion and distortion, etc.) remain within design parameters … both during the fire and, for a minimum period afterwards, during the ‘cooling phase’.   [Task for CIB W14 Working Group IV]

     E.  Encourage the development of Fire Engineering Design Guidelines for new and existing buildings, along with the Decision Support Tools needed for their use in practice … to support #2 and #4 above.  And propose how Existing Code/Regulation Provisions and Standards should be suitably updated and revised.   [Task for the International Fire Science & Engineering Community]

During the discussion which followed my presentation, and having reviewed progress … it was generally felt that the time was now ripe to prepare a Discussion Document for Comment.  This will be circulated about a month before the next meeting of CIB W14 … to be held in October 2011.

2.  CIB W14 Working Group 5: ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour & Abilities’

The photograph above was actually taken during the presentation of this Research Project … at the time being given by Project Leader, Douglas Hillhouse, Organizer of the Fire Risk Engineering Programme at Glasgow Caledonian University, in Scotland.

Prior to the Paris Meeting, Douglas had circulated a Project Discussion Document for Comment … which was focused mainly on people with disabilities.  The Co-Ordinator of CIB W14, Prof. Dr. George Hadjisophocleous, was pleased to see this Research Project develop and gather momentum.

During the discussion which followed the Presentation, I made the following points …

  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006; it came into force, i.e. became an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008; and it was ratified by a European Union (E.U.) having, for the first time after the Lisbon Treaty, its own separate legal personality … on 23 December 2010.

In February 2011 … the 2010 European Foundation Centre (EFC) Report: ‘Study on Challenges and Good Practices in the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, was approved for publication by the European Commission.  Under a duty of loyal co-operation, which derives from Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), each E.U. Member State is now obliged to properly implement the critical accessibility-related provisions of the UN CRPD, i.e. Preamble (g) and Articles 4.3, 9, 10, 11, with 31 & 33.

  • The Final Draft of International Standard … ISO FDIS 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … was registered with ISO Central Secretariat on 17 March 2011.  In spite of the technically flawed submission from ISO Technical Committee 92 to ISO Technical Committee 59, which is responsible for the production of ISO 21542 … we had successfully managed to retain a substantive, and meaningful, body of text relating to Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations.
  • Our concern, throughout this CIB W14 Research Project, would be Fire Safety for All … including people with a wide range of behavioural responses and physical/mental/cognitive/psychological abilities during a fire incident … including people with activity limitations, not just people with disabilities … and firefighters.  The user profile in a ‘real’ building must be viewed as a continuum.
  • In attempting to provide better Fire Engineering Design Solutions for people with cognitive impairments, I had realized … many years ago … that the field of Cognitive Psychology offered huge potential for a paradigm shift in Fire Engineering Research.  This potential will be identified in the Project.
  • Amongst the International Fire Science and Engineering Community, there is widespread ignorance about Panic and Panic Attacks … this may help to explain the irrational fear about dealing with this important issue … a fear which the WG 5 Project will confront !

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Of Unrelated Interest ?

During visits to Paris, I regularly ‘pop-in’ to Père Lachaise Cemetery … in the east of the city.  Access is very convenient … the Père Lachaise Métro Station being directly served by Lines 2 & 3.  Here are the last resting places (?) of Some Interesting Personalities

A.  Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) – Impressionist Painter

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04- 12. Click to enlarge.

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B.  Jim Morrison (1943-1971) of ‘The DOORS’ – Lead Singer, Songwriter & Poet

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

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C.  Maria Callas (1923-1977) – Opera Singer & Diva

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph by CJ Walsh. 2011-04-12. Click to enlarge.

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END

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